Smash Palace and The Wheel Workers

Smash Palace “Live at The Auction House”
Live concert albums are not so easy to pull off, but this one by Southern New Jersey band Smash Palace proves you can capture the “live” sound with great clarity.┬áRecorded for a PBS broadcast, the 12 songs featured here represent a good mix of the band’s long and prolific career. This line up includes Stephen Butler (lead vocals/guitar), Phil Rizzo(guitar), Wally Smith (keyboards), Fran Smith Jr (bass) and David Uosikkinen (drums). Special guests include Brian Butler who lends vocals to “Count The Days” and DyAnne DiSalvo, who sings on the acoustic version of “Give You My Word.”

If you don’t have the last Smash Palace Greatest Hits, this makes for an even better hits album as it takes from the band’s more recent (and stronger) material. The Butler brothers are master musicians and this highly recommended live performance is a treat for the ears.

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The Wheel Workers “Past To Present”
There are plenty of good “protest message” albums out there (i.e. The Sharp Things) but its rare when the music is as impressive as the message. The Wheel Workers are an indie rock band from Houston, TX with a sound that invites comparisons to “OK Computer”era Radiohead and Midnight Oil. The title track is intense orchestral pop-rock with a wild synth lead that’s both brooding and catchy. Masterminded by singer/guitarist Steven Higginbotham, his environmental messages are overt, but its the melodies that win you over. The best one here is the snappy “Chemicals” which reminds me of Peelgreems a ltttle bit.

Then we shift to the grim, fast paced “Starve The Beast” that ultimately become a defiant theme, as Steven chimes “Let’s get together and occupy the world over.” Nearly all the other tracks work well, fans of Guided By Voices will like the driving melodies of “Drone” and “Compromise.” The musical textures and swirling rhythms throughout also make this album a great listen, although the slower tunes “Animals” and “Want” overstay their welcome. Highly Recommended.

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